Equipping Families to Talk about Racial Justice

Gloria Dei’s Racial Justice Committee periodically shares message about its work and opportunities for the Gloria Dei community to participate in work on racial justice. This message is from Mark Becker, a Racial Justice Committee member.

One of the Racial Justice Committee’s favorite projects this year is distributing children’s books to the Sunday School children of Gloria Dei. Free anti-racist and/or diverse books are being distributed, with the goal of helping children and their families understand the culture and concerns of a number of different ethnic and racial groups. In this way, children can read and grow with their families in celebrating diversity and in recognizing the pain some feel because of the sin of racism. We then encourage them to pass on the books to other families, perhaps through a Little Free Library near their home. Each family and child will, therefore, have the opportunity to be agents of racial justice in their own neighborhood or among friends. By the end of May, the families of all Sunday School children will have received a book to share.

I would like you, the members and friends of Gloria Dei, to see an example of the excellent resources we send along with each book. Racial Justice Committee member Stephanie Lien Walseth wrote and compiled an introductory paragraph, telling why we chose the book (and questions for discussion). Below is the paragraph Stephanie wrote for the book sent to 5th and 6th grade students and their families. The book was Yang Warriors written by Saint Paul award winning author, Kao Kalia Yang.

Why this book?
The Racial Justice Committee chose this book for a number of reasons. Author Kao Kalia Yang is a Saint Paul based Hmong writer whose works like Yang Warriors, The Latehomecomer, The Song Poet, A Map Into the World, The Most Beautiful Thing (and many others) have given readers poetically vivid entry points into the Hmong and Hmong American experience. With 66,000 Hmong people living in Minnesota, the Twin Cities metro area is home to the highest density of Hmong people in the United States. Yet many Minnesotans do not know the history of the Hmong—from displacement and war, to refugee camps, to a new life in the United States that offers both a new set of challenges with racism and erasure, as well as hope for a bright future. Knowing the specificity of Hmong stories is vital in itself, and can also help us find resonance with other stories of displacement, war, and the journey of refugees past and immediately present. We were inspired by the compassion, mindfulness, courage in the face of danger, and determination of the real life children featured in Yang Warriors. We hope that your young readers will be equally inspired to listen with deep empathy to this Hmong story, and to fight courageously for justice in their communities.

This book aligns with Gloria Dei’s efforts to take action against racial injustice and to welcome immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers into our community. Learn more about the Racial Justice Committee’s work on Gloria Dei’s website (see the Racial Justice Committee tab). You can find updates on Room 99 and the work of the Immigrant Justice Committee on the News page of the church’s website.

Additional website resources:

When Yang Warriors launched in April 2021, Kao Kalia Yang and Billy Thao (the illustrator) virtually joined the folks at the East Side Freedom Library in Saint Paul to read the book, share the illustrations and have an in-depth conversation about the history, context and making of this text. Listen to the recorded version online.

Learn more about Kao Kalia Yang’s family story in her 2019 TED Talk*, “The Impossible Happens Every Day in the Life of the Refugee.” *Parents/Caregivers—some of the content is mature. You may want to watch first before sharing with your child/children.)

We pray that the materials support families in discussing and participating in racial justice. One parent of a second grade student (after receiving Greet the Dawn: The Lakota Way) responded with the following:

“We sent the book to school to see if his teacher wanted to share the book with their class as they incorporate several things over the year about the Dakota. They are beading this week and making pouches I guess with a local native artist. I really like the book-sharing idea. It’s another way to have these conversations with friends and neighbors in a low-pressure way. I love that insight that just by showing the book to friends and neighbors it is a way to bring it up in conversation in such a low-pressure way. So cool that families are really getting into this idea and sharing the books!”

Our committee loves this project for the ways God is at work in and through the families of Gloria Dei. We feel called to equip others to talk about and share important anti-racist values.

With gratitude for the work we share,

Gloria Dei’s Racial Justice Committee